With new practice, Greenfield native hopes to expand primary care access


Staff Writer

Published: 04-08-2021 8:26 PM

GREENFIELD — With the opening of his new practice on Federal Street, one Greenfield native hopes to expand access to primary care in an area where there continues to be a shortage of providers.

“One of the many big motivators of me starting this practice was that I work in a hospital where a lot of times we have to discharge patients ... with, ideally, a plan for patients to follow up with their primary care provider,” said Dr. Dean Singer, owner and sole practitioner of Greenfield Primary Care, the independent practice that opened this week at 146 Federal St. “And it is very common we have a difficult time getting people appropriate follow up just because of the shortage.”

In fact, of Franklin County’s 71,000 residents, there’s roughly one primary care physician for every 1,310 people, according to the 2020 County Health Rankings report. That’s up from 2019, when there was one primary care physician for every 1,280 people.

By comparison, the state average in 2020 was one physician for every 970 people.

“It’s still a major issue in this area,” Singer said. “Franklin County, in general, probably has about half as many primary care providers as it should, based on population.”

He said that includes doctors, as well as nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants.

“I think it’s important to acknowledge how much of a positive role physician’s assistants and nurse practitioners have played in providing access to primary care in this community,” Singer noted.

To start, Singer’s practice — which will function as a separate medical practice from Hampden and Franklin County Cardiovascular Associates (HFCCA), where it is located — will operate three days per week on nontraditional hours to offer flexibility to patients outside of business hours.

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“I do intend to open on weekends, at least every other weekend,” he said. “Eventually, I’d like to be open every single Saturday to give people better access.”

Part of the model he hopes to follow is reminiscent of a model of primary care that existed up until about 20 years ago.

“Primary care docs and family care docs, up until 20 years ago, used to always go and see their patients in the hospital, in the nursing home, anywhere they were,” Singer said. “And I’m sort of envisioning a little bit of a return to that wrap-around style of care.”

In another effort to expand access to the community, Singer’s practice will also offer a range of telehealth options, including the possibility of telehealth “walk-in” hours.

“A year ago, we couldn’t do telehealth, which seems crazy now,” he said. “That’s going to be such a good thing for patients, and for patients for primary care in general. I think sometimes we forget how quickly it gets rural. Even just to get to Greenfield from the hilltowns is difficult.”

Telehealth provides patients with the option to do a medical visit over the phone or via video chat, if they can’t make an in-person visit or would prefer not to. He also hopes to provide the ability for patients to consult with specialists directly through his office.

“It’s amazing to think this stuff was not a thing, and now it’s mainstream,” he said.

In addition to Singer’s offering primary care to people of all ages, Baystate Franklin Medical Center’s Opioid Bridge Clinic will contract services to Health Care Resource Centers Greenfield, where Singer serves as medical director.

“I feel strongly that addiction care — addiction is a big issue all over the country but especially in this community — should be a vital part of primary care,” Singer said. “Myself and my clinic will be available around the clock to help patients who call the Bridge Clinic who need primary care or addiction-related care.”

Singer said one of his biggest goals for the practice is to continue forming community partnerships, to be as entrenched in the community as possible.

“I think it’s kind of cool that Baystate Franklin was willing to partner with me,” he said. “The practice is not owned or affiliated with Baystate in any way, so it’s really cool Baystate would manage to find a way to make this partnership.”

For Singer, it has always been a goal to return to the community where he was raised.

“I was born in this town,” he said. “It’s been my goal for a really long time to do this. Even when I was a medical student, I knew I wanted to come back and work in Greenfield, because I really love this community.”

People who are interested in learning more about Greenfield Primary Care or becoming a new patient can visit greenfieldprimarycare.com or call 413-225-2792.

Mary Byrne can be reached at mbyrne@recorder.com or 413-930-4429. Twitter: @MaryEByrne.